Wrote: Ori Anaby
Album review - ifo HaYeled? - Zman Sukar (Sugar Time)
Release date – 23.2.1993
Record company - Hed Arzi
A story that begins with an annual trip. A high school boy gets on the bus and suddenly hears sounds from the radio that catch his ear and brain. A soft and caressing guitar melody, something addictive. A few seconds later comes a sentence: "If I stole your desire to laugh or cry, I'm really sorry". Something about the sounds emanating from the radio makes the world stop suddenly, or at least fade into the background while the realization that he is hearing something good seeps into the boy's mind. Good! Chances are good he's heard this song before. Not only would it turn out to be a very popular song, but it's by a band that the boy's two older brothers adored when they were in high school themselves. Later, the boy will have a childhood memory of another song from the same album, being played at home, when he was a little boy. Very quickly this song will become his favorite song from his favorite album by one of his favorite bands.
So this boy was, of course, me, and as you can understand from the title the band is "Eifo HaYeled?" and the album is "Zman Sukar" (Sugar Time). The band's debut album was released on February 23, 1993. In honor of its 30th anniversary, I asked his Dudu (David) and Lior to write a personal review of the album and to my delight, they agreed. In this review, you will not read about interesting trivia details, that is more Dudu & Lior thing. Instead, you will get my personal interpretation of the experience of listening to this album. Most of the band's hits are on this album and almost every song on it blows my mind every time I hear it, over and over again.
The first song on the album is "America Krova" (America Is Close). This album opens with "in your face" rock and roll, with distorted guitars and Hemi Rudner's rocker scream, before even a single word is sung. And if we have already mentioned the lyrics, they are something between a social critique of the period, in which the song was written, and a flirtation with a future post-apocalyptic vision (something that will come back more prominently later on). The band does not shy away from a poignant text, already in the opening, and also allows itself to hide references to various sources, from the Bible to Mati Caspi, in the text. All these lyrics are wrapped in a melody that does not stop kicking from the beginning of the song to the end. "America is close", here too, and more precisely Seattle is close. The influence of bands from the grunge scene, which was at its peak at the time, especially "Nirvana", is evident.
If I wrote that "Ma SheOver Allay" (what's going on with me) is my favorite song of the band, the second song on the album, "Nafalta Chazak" (You fell Hard), is probably in second place. Let's put aside for a moment all the mythology surrounding Yermi Kaplan and Dana Berger that is associated with the song, and the fact that it is the first single released from the album and the band's most successful song. This is a text that anyone who has ever experienced unrequited love or an unrequited relationship can relate to. The love in this song is a destructive drug, one that can knock you down and ruin your life completely. The woman in this song is presented as an almost demonic being, with destructive powers that the unfortunate victim who is in love with her cannot face. Even after "all is lost" she is insatiable and continues to abuse her victim by asking them to stay close. Of course, this representation is clearly unrealistic, but sometimes people in love have a hard time understanding reality correctly, just like people whose lives have been taken over by drugs. As in "Ma SheOver Allay" and quite a few other songs by the band, here to the song opens with a caressing guitar riff, and very quickly comes the opening line that catches the ear and magnetizes the listener. In my opinion, the transition of the guitar between the chorus and the second verse is one of Assaf Sarig's most beautiful. The melody in the song varies between softness in the verses and hardness in the chorus, one that emphasizes the depth of the "fall".
After falling hard in the second song, in the third song, we soar high into the sky. Unlike the previous songs mentioned, the song "Hashamaim Hagvool" (The Sky is the Limit) starts first with the first line of the lyrics, and only then that the addictive guitar riff enters. Assaf Sarig admitted that they stole this riff from "Led Zeppelin", but qualified by saying that they ("Led Zeppelin") are quite thieves themselves (which is actually quite true...). The narrator in the song tries to overcome a breakup with someone close and chooses to do so mainly with the help of alcohol ("You don't love me, just me and the bottle without anyone"). From the clouds of alcohol "suddenly a door opens to another world". The narrator realizes the secret: "Being alone is actually not that bad". From the moment we reveal this secret to him, "the sky is the limit". The music in the song also takes off on top of the stolen riff and takes us up to the sky and beyond.
One of the boy from the first paragraph's early childhood memories, is related to the fourth song on the album: "Mesibat HaTe Shell Alizza" (Alice's Tea Party). For years he had a memory in his head of a song that was played at home and talked about Alice and her tea party, but only when he grew up did he discover what that song was. The alcohol from the previous song is replaced here by tea, but one that has a strange taste, and its effects are just as strong as those of alcohol, if not more so. The psychedelia in the song is evident both in the words and in the melody. The words describe a surreal experience that corresponds with Lewis Carroll's famous book. The melody corresponds mainly with the "Pixies". Except for the last song on the album, this is the only track in which Hemi Rudner was not involved in writing the lyrics.
Most of the songs on the album are about relationships or social criticism. The fifth song, "Eifo Haruach" (Where is the Wind), talks about a more personal crisis. This crisis is not related to a relationship (or at least not only a relationship). "Last day left a sour feeling". Who hasn't had days like this? The experience in the song is that of a person facing a crisis in his life and trying to find the right direction, the "wind". He tries to disconnect from the people outside and in the peace of the house and the shower reflects on his existential situation. The problem is that even inside the house he does not find peace for long. "The past day" chases him into the house. The song ends when the crisis is not resolved and the questions remain unanswered.
The sixth song on the album is also the theme song, "Zman Sukar" (Sugar Time). This song is also about dangerous and explosive relationships. The narrator of the song is warning someone about the person she is entering into a relationship with. He is sure that the relationship will end in a crash and he announces, in advance, that he will not be there to pick up the pieces ("Who will help you after you fall? Not God, certainly not me"). This relationship may seem sweet at the beginning, but the end may be bad and bitter, and even violent. In terms of the melody, this is perhaps the most "rocky" song on the album. After the explosive drum opening, the guitars in the song don't stop "grinding" throughout. They also accompany the end of the song, a "Fade Out" which is almost an anthem: "Going, coming, sugar time".
The lyrics of the seventh song on the album, "HaEtzev Shela" (Her Sadness), were written by Hemi Rudner together with Iris Ratsabi. Ratsabi is also the one who wrote the lyrics to the song "Mesibat HaTe Shell Alizza" (Alice's Tea Party). This probably explains why this is the only song on the album written from a woman's point of view, when singer Tal Gordon is a guest here on vocals. Many songs on the album deal with heartbreak from a man's point of view, but in this track, it is the woman who deals with the issue and her way of dealing with it is completely different. She chooses to keep her sadness inside and outwardly broadcast that everything is fine: "When you step on thorns, she says, you have to smile". Her ability to show restraint and not fall apart demonstrates how much strength she has, a strength she herself "doesn't understand". The melody in the song also corresponds with the tension of the lightness outside and the pain inside. Throughout most of the song the melody is light and only in the chorus does it become heavier, when talking about "her sadness".
And here we come to the eighth song on the album, the one with which we opened the review: "Ma SheOver Allay" (what's going on with me). If they were to compile a list of the songs that characterized Israeli rock in the early nineties (the so-called "Roxanne" club generation), this song would surely be one of the most prominent on the list. In my opinion, this is a wonderful song from the first note to the last. On top of the addictive guitar riff is a text that tells us (another) story of dealing with a breakup. The narrator in the song describes the life of the girl who broke up with him and he becomes a marginal figure in them. While her life is actually improving following the breakup, his life is falling apart and he secretly hopes she will notice this. At the end of the song, the narrator can no longer hide his bad condition and his hope that she will be interested in him (or at least call). A breakup is a difficult and painful thing, but at this point, I would ask that even if you experienced a breakup, "water your pots and don't kick your pets". The pots and the animals are not to blame for your breakup. The transition from a quiet melody in the verses to a loud and kicking melody in the chorus and back was very common at that time (We already mention Seattle) and this song demonstrates it well. As long as we talk about her, the melody is calm, but when we talk about what he is going through (which is actually the heart of the matter) the melody explodes.
Whoa... what do we have here? What is this bass line? Did Seattle really reach "Tel Aviv" or "Givat Brenner"? No. This is the iconic opening of the ninth song on the album, "Echad Elohim" (One God). 30 years have passed since the release of the album and unfortunately, this song remains relevant to a large extent. The social critique and the description of a post-apocalyptic future that we were exposed to in "America Krova" (America Is Close) take center stage here. The first verse of the song actually describes the present. No one comes out "clean" in the sharp and poignant text written by Hemi Rudner. The picture of the situation that Rudner paints for us in the first verse is a preparation for what happens in the second one. He describes a starting point of a world full of "little people" with weak characters, so that we understand how the disaster described in the second verse happens. "Suddenly the situation becomes fatal" Rudner sings at the beginning of the second verse. The people show a great willingness to go to war and trust their leaders, but as soon as the war breaks out, things deteriorate very quickly. The results of the war are described at the end of the second verse, but mainly in the chorus: "And now they suddenly ask how it happened that the sky fell, they search in the cities that there might have been some left in them, to drink in them, some water left in them". This is a description of total destruction and the people who survived are in a state of shock. They don't understand how they got into this situation, but Rudner "volunteers" to explain to them and does so mercilessly. One can find in the text of the song a certain parallel to the biblical story of Noah and the flood. In this song, too, the melody is quiet in the verses and loud and kicking in the chorus. "One God" is a warning prophecy that people didn't really want to listen to at the time and it seems they don't want to listen to it even today... This is the first song that Hemi Rudner wrote, the first song that the band recorded somewhere in 1991 and the first that was published, two years before the band was signed to "Hed Artzi". While the Scud missiles fell on Israel Hemi sang: "There was a biological and chemical war, something total...". In a way, it was also the song that saved the band and made Assaf Maroz believe that they had something good in their hands and stay in the band. Maybe because of this, this song also gets to open the band's shows, a kind of tribute to the song that opened the doors for "Eifo HaYeled?".
The tenth song on the album, "Tzipor Gan Eden" (Bird of Paradise), is also a song of social criticism, but this time with a less apocalyptic flavor. Between the lines, you can read here the "kibbutznik" who moved to the big city and sees the emptiness that hides behind the glamorous life of the famous. The gossip sections in the newspapers report where they go out to drink and who they saw what, but there is no real content. All the drugs and lies try to hide the fact that "the most beautiful of them all" is gone and no one really cares where she is. It is not clear whether "the most beautiful of all" is a real woman or an abstract idea, such as meaning or truth. What is clear is that the "paradise" of the big city shines less in reality than what is written about in the newspapers.
what? Another breakup song? Yes, but the last on the album. The eleventh song, "Karati Et Michtavech" (I read your letter), is a quiet and beautiful song whose soft melody covers a complex text. The letter in the poem is apparently a farewell letter, but the speaker of the poem is not really coming to terms with the farewell. "The past is a spider's web that doesn't allow me to hope and dream" Rudner sings and presents us with a picture of a man who cannot free himself from his love for a certain woman. The problem is that he refuses to let her go too, even as she tries to move on with someone else. He still believes that in the end, they will be together forever.
Similar to "Eifo Haruach" (Where is the Wind), the twelfth song on the album, "Yoshev Ba Kursa" (Sitting in an Armchair), also talks about a personal crisis. This is a song about a man whose existence is empty and he spends most of his time in an armchair in front of the television. I admit I don't have too much to say about this song. I didn't just write that almost all the songs on the album blow my mind.
Everything has an end and we have reached the thirteenth and last song on the album: "Knaffaim, Eincha Shomea" (Wings, you don't hear). This song is very different from the other songs on the album, both in terms of lyrics and melody. The lyrics were written by Yosef Sarig, father of the guitarist Assaf Sharig. Yosef Sharig was killed while serving in the Armored Corps and his son Asaf gave the words he wrote a beautiful and melancholy melody. Except for "Mesibat HaTe Shell Alizza" (Alice's Tea Party), (which was also composed by Assaf Sharig), this is the only song on the album that Hemi Rudner was not involved in writing the lyrics or the melody. It is very difficult for me to write a commentary on the lyrics of the song, but maybe there is no need. Assaf Sarig's guitar stars in this song almost alone and while the song is mostly quiet sometimes heartbreaking "howls" are emitted from it. The choice to end the album with this song is very interesting. Personally, I think that the fact that the album ends with a song that is fundamentally different from the other songs on it actually adds to the album, because it emphasizes the other songs on it and also gives it a unique ending chord.
This is it. That is what I had to write about "Zman Sukar" (Sugar Time). 48 minutes and 31 seconds of a masterpiece. A milestone in Israeli rock and roll and one of the most prominent albums released in Israel during the nineties (and there were quite a few of them). As mentioned, this great album is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary. If you have tickets for the special performance in honor of the occasion - go and enjoy. If you don't have one (like me), you can still enjoy this album if you listen to it at home or if, by chance, you get on the bus on an annual trip and suddenly wonderful sounds emanating from the radio...